98 Leonardo — By Richard Thiel
— January 2003
|Part 2: In my opinion the most striking aspect of the 98’s exterior is her long, low foredeck.|
If there's any disadvantage to the 98's one-level, inside-out plan, it's that there's no room for a day head on the main level. Instead, it's halfway down the stairs to starboard of the helm station. At the bottom of our test boat's stairs were three staterooms: a midship master, forward VIP, and port-side guest stateroom with twin berths. All have en suite facilities, but none has a tub. A four-stateroom plan is also available.
So where's the galley? Well, there are two. The saloon bar is actually a minigalley with a below-counter refrigerator, single sink, two-burner cooktop, and a surprising amount of stowage. In another design coup, Righini placed the main galley in the lower-level crew quarters, which are accessed by a stairway behind the bar. (The stairway is also accessible from the port-side deck.) This means crew can prepare meals out of sight and unobtrusively ferry them up to the bar for serving.
The main galley is seriously outfitted with a full-size refrigerator, four-burner cooktop, stainless steel countertops, oven, microwave, double sink, and pantry. There's also a dinette for the crew that can convert to a double bed and a large laundry room with separate washer and dryer. The captain's cabin is forward through this space while a bunkroom for two crew is aft.
The engine room can also be accessed through a large watertight door with a window (an excellent safety feature) at the after end of the crew quarters. Inside is six-foot-plus headroom, and thanks to V-drives there's true walkaround access to the twin 2,000-hp MTU 16V2000s. Kohler gensets sit forward to port and starboard, and a second watertight access door aft leads to the garage. The area is spacious and without clutter, but what impressed me most was its moderate temperature--I'd estimate no more than 90ºF, even after three hours of hard running. Credit for that goes to big extractor fans abaft each engine.
Thanks to the garage and one more surprise, the Leonardo's flying bridge, accessible only from the saloon via a glass stairway, is devoid of watercraft and so can be devoted to pleasure. It's big--its aft overhang covers the dining area below--its Jacuzzi tub is surrounded by what seems like an acre of sunpad, and there's a big oval dining table to port. There's also a second helm station, sink, refrigerator, and ice maker up here.
What's the surprise? Well, you have that spacious garage for your two PWC, but every yacht needs a tender, so where do you stow it? The answer is on the foredeck--or rather under it. A massive accordion hatch that can be covered with a sunpad electrically opens to uncover a Sea-Doo jetboat and its crane. Alas, the panel jammed on the day I was aboard, so I couldn't see this engineering marvel in full operation, not a surprising turn of events since I was aboard Hull No. 1. I cannot imagine how Righini managed to place another garage here without apparently compromising headroom in the staterooms beneath it or in any way affecting what is clearly a very sleek profile. Indeed, in my opinion the most striking aspect of the 98's exterior is her long, low foredeck.
With 4,000 hp and a moderate 195,000-pound displacement, you'd expect a good turn of speed for the Leonardo, and you won't be disappointed. Azimut is projecting a top speed of 33 knots and a cruising speed of 28 knots, although the speeds I saw on the day I was aboard were about 4 knots shy of each number. One reason for the deficit is no doubt the 14 people we had onboard, but another may be what I judged to be a decidedly flat running angle that maximizes wetted surface and thereby drag. Indeed, in observing the 98 underway, I noticed that the water breaks from her hull at about the bottom of her forefoot. I suspect that after Azimut does a little fine-tuning of the 98's weights and balances, she'll probably hit those numbers.
Certainly no fine-tuning is required of the Leonardo's unique and eminently practical accommodations plan. Usually when a designer breaks new ground, he does so at the expense of something, but in this case I cannot find anything that has suffered, except perhaps the placement of the day head, a minor inconvenience. Truly it can be said that with the 98, Azimut and Righini have turned not only the 98 but yacht design inside out.
Azimut Phone: (39) 011-93161. www.azimutyachts.net.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.